The Internet Marketing Driver: Glenn Gabe's goal is to help marketers build powerful and measurable web marketing strategies.

Monday, January 25, 2010

An Email, A Tweet, Some Retweets and A Sale - How Twitter Can Impact Your B2B Sales

Case Study - How Twitter Can Impact Your B2B SalesI think many heavy Twitter users hear the same jokes and comments from people not using the service. “I don’t see any value in tweeting my ideas”, “Why would I want tell people what I had for breakfast”, “140 character updates, I don’t get it…”, “Why do I want to communicate with total strangers?”, so on and so forth. After hearing comments like this, it usually only takes me a few minutes to give real world examples of how Twitter is NOT what they were thinking and how they could use the service to help grow their own businesses. Those real world case studies go a long way when you are explaining a service that can be foreign to other people (even for people in marketing who aren’t that involved with social media.) So, I’m always on the lookout for more great examples of how Twitter (and social media) can impact companies, marketers, customers, etc. As you might guess, I’ve a got a good one that I’ve decided to share. :)

The Social Media Chain Reaction Needs a Spark
A few weeks ago, a blog post was published detailing some of the top software applications for a niche in an industry. The post included a startup that had recently just launched their new application. The founder of the startup was proud (as he should be) and blasted out an email newsletter announcing that they were included in the list of top apps. I’m not sure how many people were on the email list, but I can only imagine it wasn’t a large list (as the company recently just launched).

It wasn’t long before a link to the blog post hit the Twittersphere. The company in question has a very small Twitter following, so blasting out an email could only help get the word out. A quick review of their Twitter stream shows they are doing the right things, but they haven’t reached critical mass to make a significant impact. Some of the tweets linking to the blog post were from people who definitely have a strong Twitter following. Retweets soon followed and the word started to get out about the list of top apps. By no means was this a retweet extravaganza that I’ve seen with other posts, but it did get passed around quite a bit.

The Results: Email, Tweet, Retweet, Sale
It's sometimes funny how tweets end up finding the right people. It's similar to WOM, where several generations of communication can occur (stemming from the initial tweet). In a nutshell, the startup ended up landing its first international client in less than 12 hours from one of the initial tweets. The new customer saw the tweet (either by directly following a Twitter user or by tracking keywords in Twitter), clicked through to the blog post, and then chose to learn more about the startup's app. They obviously took the next step and inquired about the service and then pulled the trigger (all in less than 12 hours.) Oh by the way, this all cost nothing for the startup, nada, $0). And when B2B sales can generate thousands of dollars per customer (or tens of thousands of dollars depending on what you sell), you cannot downplay how powerful this Twitter example is.

A Quick Tangent About Email Marketing:
I wanted to point out that an email actually started the communication process. There’s quite a bit of buzz about social networking (and for good reason), but I still believe a strong and scrubbed in-house email list is worth its weight in gold.

Seeing the “Twitter” Light
For the startup, they now see the power of Twitter (and social media in general). But in my opinion, the company was somewhat lucky with what happened. Don’t get me wrong, their software solution looks impressive (especially for the industry they focus on). But, having cool software doesn’t necessarily translate to business success, especially with all the noise in today’s marketplace. It’s great that the blog post made its way to the right people, but the startup could have better facilitated the communication on social networks. No, you cannot control where the message ends up and how it gets passed along, but you can help get the word out to the right people during the launch via followers, fans, influencers, etc. That’s where having a strong presence on social networks like Twitter and Facebook can be extremely powerful.

In order to maximize their efforts and continually engage targeted users, the startup needs to tackle social media marketing on several fronts. Although they saw some success due to Twitter that day, they had to rely on someone else getting the word out. Imagine if they already had a strong following on Twitter and Facebook. What if they already had a global readership on their blog, and had connections with dozens of powerful bloggers in their industry? It’s not a stretch to think that the startup could have landed five or ten new customers versus one. The problem is that it takes time to build up a following, which I have written about several times before. Currently, the startup is in the initial stages of launching their social media marketing efforts. They are fighting the black hole of blogging and Twitter, but they are doing the right things. If they don’t get frustrated and keep driving forward, social media could end up being very powerful for them. They could end up driving the communication versus hoping someone else drives it for them.

In Order to Reap the Rewards of Social Media, Make Sure You’re in the Game
In order to make sure you can benefit from a situation like what I explained above, there are some initial steps you can take. First, develop a strategy for utilizing social media to engage targeted users. This includes understanding the people you want to reach, which types of content they want to see, which social networks you should be active on, how to gain real followers and not just zombie followers, etc. Second, join Twitter. You need to take the leap and join in order to get things moving. Once you join, you’ll need to work through the black hole of blogging and Twitter (like I mentioned above). You won’t build a strong following overnight, but if you do the right things consistently over time, you can end up building a targeted following. And those followers could have a profound impact on your business.

Track everything you can. Track your tweets, follower counts, blog posts, website activity from social networks, and conversion. Note, conversion doesn’t always mean a sale or an email registration (macro-conversions). It can be micro-conversions like downloads, videos viewed, content viewed, email links, etc. You need to understand how your social media marketing efforts are performing in order to make adjustments and grow your following.

Form relationships and not just followers. Yes, that’s the “social” part of social media. I’m not saying you have to be best friends with every follower and fan, but there will be a subset of your followers that you will definitely connect with. Once you form those relationships, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to rely on some of your followers to help your business. And by the way, you’ll probably be just as willing to help them too. Trust me, if you participate in Twitter the right way, you can’t help but meet really cool people with similar interests. Then it’s just a matter of how you engage your newfound friends and contacts.

Twitter Questions to Ponder
So, if you are one of those people asking “Why would I want to tell people what I had for breakfast on Twitter”, please read this post again. Then ask yourself the following questions:

1. How many new customers am I missing out on by not being on Twitter?
2. Are my competitors already there and doing the right things to engage targeted users?
3. How much time can I carve out during each day (yes, that’s every day) to participate on Twitter and other social networks?
4. Am I ready to engage other people and provide valuable content? Read this bullet again. Valuable tweets are NOT about promoting your own service ten times per day. It’s about providing information that your followers would find valuable.

A Final Note
There you have it. A pretty cool example of how email marketing led to a tweet, which led to retweets, and then ultimately a B2B sale (all in less than 12 hours). After reading this case study, you have to ask yourself the following question:

Are you going to be one of the people sitting on the sidelines and making fun of Twitter, or will you be landing new customers and growing your business?

Good question.


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Monday, December 07, 2009

Announcing The “Search a Small Business” Holiday Giveaway from G-Squared Interactive

The Search a Small Business Holiday Sweepstakes from G-Squared Interactive.The holidays are always a great time to reflect upon the past year in online marketing. Looking back at 2009, it’s interesting to analyze how various companies utilized new technologies and marketing channels to increase sales and engage prospective customers. I feel fortunate to be in a position where I get to speak with many marketers from a wide range of companies (both large and small) to learn which tactics they are using to grow their businesses. I think it's been an amazing year, with Search, Social Media, and Mobile attracting a lot of attention from a wide range of companies and organizations.

However, looking back on my conversations and projects over the past year, it’s hard to ignore the lack of resources available to ultra small businesses. These small businesses unfortunately don’t have the time or budgets to tackle online marketing the way larger companies can. They also happen to be a critical component of our economy, so it just doesn’t seem right.

Ultra-Small Businesses & Online Marketing
To me, ultra small businesses are companies run by one or two individuals, employ less than ten people, generate under $500K per year in revenue, and move at light speed to keep their businesses moving. Ultra small businesses are critically important for our economy, but tend to be overshadowed by news from larger brands and companies. As article after article is written about multi-billion dollar powerhouses, the small business owner remains somewhat anonymous. Yet, those very business owners in aggregate employ millions of people and are an important part of the framework of commerce in the United States.

This got me thinking. What could I do this holiday season to help a small business start 2010 the right way? Let’s face it, many small businesses don't have the time to learn about the latest in online marketing and how to leverage those tactics to increase sales. But, just because they don’t have huge budgets and big brand names doesn’t mean they have to be left out in the cold!

The “Search a Small Business” Holiday Giveaway
So in the spirit of the holidays, I decided to launch The “Search a Small Business” Holiday Giveaway here at G-Squared Interactive. Over the next week, small businesses that meet the requirements listed below can simply send us an email to enter the contest. The winning business will receive a free online marketing audit, which includes an analysis of how their current website is performing. And more importantly, the analysis will provide recommendations for improving the website and various online marketing efforts. Insights from the analysis could include recommendations for improving Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Paid Search (SEM), Social Media Marketing, Website Optimization, and Web Analytics. The goal is to help the winning company quickly understand changes that can impact its business. The analysis will be performed by myself and Matt Leonard, an incredibly smart online marketer and good friend of mine that has agreed to help. For those of you on Twitter, Matt is @mjleonard and you should follow him now if you aren’t already. Together, we plan to arm a small business with key information for improving its online marketing efforts.

Please review the following requirements before entering the contest to make sure your business is eligible.

In order to be eligible, you must:
* Have less than 10 employees.
* Already have a website. Since this is an online marketing analysis, we need something to analyze. :)
* Be located less than 60 miles from Princeton, NJ and be a NJ business. This is because Matt and I will present the results to you in person at your office. I recommend you check Google Maps to see if you are eligible.
* Be willing to let us write follow-up blog posts about the giveaway and project. We would like to provide updates about how the winner is using the information provided in our analysis.
* Be willing to make changes! The analysis can only go so far. You will need to act on the recommendations in order to see an impact.

To read the official rules and regulations, please click here.

So let us help your business start off 2010 with the right online marketing strategies in place! Enter now by emailing us at Be sure to include all of your contact information so we know how to get in touch with you, including your full name, business name, business address, number of employees, phone number, and website URL. We will be accepting emails for the contest from Monday, December 7th, 2009 through Monday, December 14th, 2009. We will announce the winner on December 15th on this blog (and directly contact the winner via the information they provide when entering the contest).

Happy Holidays!

Glenn Gabe and Matt Leonard

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Hacked Gmail Accounts: What To Do If Your Gmail Account Is Compromised By Hackers

How to recover your gmail account after it has been hacked.The morning of March 2nd started out fairly normally. I moved quickly to get ready and jumped on my computer to check email, twitter, my feeds, etc. So I launched Outlook and happened to see an email from one of my good friends Matt Leonard (or @mjleonard if you are on Twitter). He's a great guy and a smart marketer so we're in touch often. The email was sent from Matt's gmail account and the subject line communicated the urgency of his message.

Apparently, Matt flew to Nigeria the night before to attend the Tinapa Opening Ceremony. {???} He ended up staying at a hotel, which was attacked by armed robbers. {OK...} They took all of his money and his wallet. {???} His email explained that he needed money badly, to the tune of $1500 so he could settle his hotel bill. {LOL} He seemed very scared and he emphasized that he needed the money sent as soon as possible. As you can imagine, I was genuinely concerned for Matt... {sarcasm}

Yes, Matt's gmail account had been hacked and I'm sure many people received the same email I did. Here was the original email:

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Subject: *****URGENT REPLY NEEDED *********

I am in a hurry writing this message, I had a trip to West Africa *NIGERIA* on visiting the TINAPA OPENING CEREMONY, Unfortunately for me all my money got stolen at the hotel where i lodged from the attack of some armed robbers.Right now,I'm without money and I'm even owing the hotel here, the hotel telephone service is disconnected,i have only access to emails,my mobile phone can't work here so i didn't bring it along, please can you lend me $1500 so i can return back and settle the hotel bills i would return it back to you as soon as i get home, I am so confused right now.You can have it sent through western union money transfer. My passport is with the Embassy here so i cant use my name to collect it now, But you can have it sent directly to a western union Manager here and i would get it through him as he helps the people here in the hotel to receive the money, I have already spoken to him, please let me hear from you so i can collect his full name and address where you can send the money tomorrow please,or if possible today. I am waiting for your reply.

Thank you. I look forward to your positive response.



OK, this was absolutely ridiculous, but being the good friend I am, I still wanted to reach out to Matt as soon as possible to let him know what was going on. I was pretty confident he didn't know yet. Now, I didn’t know if his actual account was taken over. I simply thought that someone was blasting out emails using his address as the sender. There’s a difference between the two. So, I created a new email (which was sent to his gmail account) informing him that his email address had been compromised. Unfortunately, that was the only email address I had for Matt...

It was a brief email that looked like this:


Hi Matt.

I just received a spam email from your gmail acct. Not sure if it's
widespread or not, but wanted to let you know.

It was one of those Nigerian schemes.

Let me know if you have any questions.



It was only a few minutes when I received an email back from Matt. My guess was that he wanted to quickly thank me for notifying him of the scam. I opened the email and was shocked to see that the original email from Matt wasn't a joke! Matt was in fact in Nigeria at a hotel and needed money. {sarcasm yet again}

You see, “Matt” actually responded to my email!

Holy smokes, the scammers who hacked Matt's gmail were answering emails right from his account! I'll admit it, that creeped me out. Read their response to my email below:

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Subject: Re: Email Spam
To: Glenn Gabe


Its not a scam mail, i am really there now. i need you to help me with $1500, i shall pay you as soon as a i return. i hope to read from you asap. below is the info where the money will be sent to....


So, I direct messaged Matt via Twitter notifying him of the hack, this time using only 140 characters or less. :) Before long, I received a DM back from Matt that he was handling the situation. He thanked me, and got back to fixing the problem. So, after Matt recovered his gmail account (and after he got pummeled by jokes on Twitter), I asked him about the steps he took to recover his gmail account.

After this happened to Matt, I asked myself if I would know what to do... I really didn't. I'm sure I would eventually figure it out, but I didn't know the exact steps. So with Matt's assistance, I decided to write this post to document the steps you should take to recover your gmail account after it has been compromised.

So in Matt’s own words, here’s how to handle the situation:

The process was pretty simple.

First, from the Gmail login page, select "I can not access my account".

Gmail, I cannot access my account.

Second, select the radio button "My account has been compromised". This will show a new prompt below "Please fill out our account recovery form to help us process your request as quickly as possible". Follow that link.

Gmail, my account has been compromised.

From the Account Recovery page, select "I believe someone has taken over my account" and fill out as much information as possible.

In my case, Google had contacted me pretty quickly via my alternate email with instructions to reset my password. {Glenn: Make sure your alternate email is active. You can check this from your Google account settings. You can also add additional email addresses just in case.}

Some other useful notes from Matt:
I'm not sure how someone hacked my gmail account. I did make a mistake by using the same password on way too many things. My main passwords are now individually unique. Passwords I set up for vendor accounts are no longer the same as I would use for other more sensitive services, like online banking.

Matt’s Tips to Protect to Your Logins:
1. Avoid unsecured networks
2. Don't use the same password everywhere.
3. Don't duplicate your email password with any login elsewhere (if you do, someone can use your email to login to your other accounts).
4. Change passwords periodically.
5. Don't share your passwords with anyone. Even if they're not going to abuse it, they may not store it properly.
6. Know where you enter passwords. 3rd party Twitter apps that require passwords are a perfect example of sites that people will enter their password without much familiarity aside from a tweet referral.


So there you have it. If you wake up one morning and everyone is asking how and why you checked into a Nigerian Hotel, forgot your wallet, ran up a $1500 bill, and now need money, you'll know how to handle it. :) And definitely feel free to connect with Matt on Twitter. It's ok to joke around with him about the situation. He's a nice guy and has handled the jokes with grace. But don't go too far, he can bench press 375 pounds and used to be a minor league hockey player. ;-)


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Monday, June 02, 2008

Web Analytics and Tracking Offline Conversions | Why I Wouldn’t Want to be the Email Marketing Manager at Toys R Us

Tracking Offline Sales That Originate Online, Toys R Us Email MarketingMaybe that’s a bit harsh, so let me explain. I’m sure it’s a good job and that the person running email marketing enjoys what he/she does, but there is an inherent issue with that position that would drive me absolutely crazy... So, why wouldn’t I want to be the email marketing manager at Toys R Us? It has to do with sales attribution, tracking offline conversions, and what I’ve witnessed first hand over the past 6 months. Let’s start off with some background information.

Let’s Define Sales Attribution:
The definition of sales attribution is the process by which you assign credit (in this case revenue) to a particular sales channel. If you are using a web analytics package on your e-commerce website (and I hope you are), then sales attribution enables you to break down your revenue by channel (email marketing, paid search, organic search, banner advertising, etc.) to gauge how your marketing campaigns are performing.

Receiving the Email and Then Visiting the Store…
I receive email marketing from Toys R Us frequently (being a parent of 2 young children). If something piques my curiosity, I sometimes click through to the website and browse around. That’s good for Toys R Us and their email marketing manager. But…I almost always buy offline, and that’s not so good for the email marketing manager. Now, I’m sure the person running email marketing wants the best for the company and a sale is a sale, but that specific sale won’t be attributed to the email campaign that sparked the transaction. Do you see where I’m going with this? How would you like it if someone else (or department) always took credit for your hard work? Back to why I purchase toys offline. I think you have to be a parent to understand why I almost always buy offline at a Toys R Us store. You see, it’s actually a blast to visit the store with your kids. And, when weekends sometimes feel like a marathon for parents, it’s a much needed break. The only way I would buy from Toy R Us online is if the store near us didn’t have something I desperately needed in stock (and that’s not often). It’s ironic for me…since I buy everything online, but toys seem to be a different story.

Web Analytics and Sales Attribution
Typically, an email marketing campaign is tagged specifically to be tracked in a web analytics package. This is done via tracking parameters added to the links in the email marketing creative you receive. The tracking variables are appended to the URL in the querystring. To see what I’m talking about, check out the following link from an email I received from Lands End this past weekend.

An email link tagged with tracking variables:

Lands End is using Coremetrics (a web analytics package that I am extremely familiar with). The tagging you see in the querystring will enable the web analytics package to attribute the sale to the email marketing I received on Sunday. Based on what I just showed you, I’m sure you can see why tracking online campaigns is much easier to do than offline campaigns (and why it’s much faster to report). You can track each campaign at a granular level and obviously make decisions based on your reporting to improve campaign performance in the future. That said, you still have a problem with tracking offline conversions that started online (like I explained earlier with receiving an email and then visiting the store.) So, as the sales roll in at the store, the poor email marketing manager back at headquarters won’t really be able to attribute that revenue to his or her campaign. Sure, you can guess that the email drove a certain amount of revenue, but you can’t say for sure… Unfortunately, there aren’t many ways around this issue (for now). However, there are some ways to attempt to capture the sale and attribute it correctly and I’ve listed two ideas below.

Some Ideas for Attributing Sales for Offline Transactions That Originate Online:

1. Include a printable coupon in your email.
If you can provide a printable coupon in your email creative, then you might entice a customer to bring it to the store. If the coupon is used, then you can attribute the sale to your email marketing campaign (as long as your systems can communicate with one another). This is not a new technique and it requires a customer to take a few extra steps, but it can help you attribute the sale to your campaign. Hey, every dollar counts when you’re running that channel, right?

2. Have your cashiers ask the question at checkout.
Now, this is definitely not foolproof, since it’s based on human behavior, but it might work for you. Let’s list a few potential problems… The cashier may never ask the question or ask much less frequently than you want. The customer may not tell the truth or shrug off the question. Let’s face it, relying on people to track your sales is not optimal.

Let's Help The Email Marketing Manager at Toys R Us!
So, can you see why I wouldn’t want to be the email marketing manager at Toys R Us? I can’t imagine how many sales are attributed to other channels. That would drive me nuts! But, we can help... If you’ve received an email from Toys R Us, but visited the store to make your purchase, list the date and dollar amount below. Maybe the email marketing manger can import this data into his/her web analytics package and finally get credit for a job well done!

I’ll start:
May 25th, $72.10


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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

5 Ways to Jumpstart Your Viral Marketing Campaigns

Ideas for Jumpstarting Your Viral Marketing CampaignsI’ve been having a lot of conversations about viral marketing recently and one question keeps popping up... “How do you give a viral campaign a jumpstart?” It’s a great question and one I wanted to address in this post. Although there’s not an exact formula for what type of content will go viral, you can definitely give your campaign a jumpstart by utilizing the following 5 techniques. And by the way, almost all of the techniques listed below cost nothing. That’s right…nada.

As a viral marketer, you definitely want to get your message in front of as many people as possible during your launch in order to see what sticks. Then, if you’ve crafted your campaign properly, your content has a chance to go viral. There are no guarantees with viral marketing, but your campaign just might have that hook… and if it does, then it could take on a life of its own! Let’s take a look at how to jumpstart your campaign…

5 Techniques for Giving Your Viral Campaign a Jolt:

1. Utilize Your In-House Email List
Worth its weight in gold, your in house email list can help you drive trusted visitors to your viral site extremely quickly. This is one of the easiest ways to get your content into the hands of people who already know you, have purchased from you, and hopefully receive ongoing email communications from you. The more people you can get to your campaign website during the launch, the greater chance you have of it going viral. Email marketing gives you the opportunity to clearly explain the campaign, provide details, visuals, and calls to action. And unlike some of the other methods listed below, email lets you craft your initial message. Now, what happens to that message after it starts getting passed around is a different story. :-) Last, email is inherently viral…you gave your list something to pass along (the actual email you sent!) Back to the launch…think about it, if you have an in-house list of 800,000 people and you have a click through rate of 4%, then you can start your campaign with 32,000 people hitting the site. That’s not a bad start.

2. Work with Your PR Agency or PR Department
You should definitely coordinate your viral campaign with your PR department or PR agency. You should have them craft several press releases to blast out during the first few weeks of the campaign. Chances are your PR department or agency has incredible contacts in your industry and can hopefully land you excellent coverage. In addition, using services like PRWeb can syndicate your releases across the web, helping you gain maximum exposure on blogs, forums, websites, etc. And, if you do start getting links on major blogs in the industry, they will pay off big time down the line for organic search. For example, maybe you end up landing several high Pagerank blogs linking to your campaign website. So don’t exclude PR!

3. Empower Your Employees
That’s right, your own employees can help you get the word out! This obviously has a greater effect if you are a larger organization with thousands of employees, but regardless, don’t overlook the power of your own people! You should craft an internal communication that gets people pumped up about the campaign. Make sure that the email you blast out to your employees contains all of the necessary information, including URL’s, visuals, a good breakdown of the campaign, etc. Let’s say you have 5,000 employees and they average 2.5 forwards per employee. Now you’ve got an additional 12,500 people to the site in a hurry. And since it was probably forwarded to friends at other companies, you have a chance that your link will get passed to many others. The link may go through several generations of forwarding. So don’t forget about your own employees. It’s fast, free, and can make an impact.

4. Social Media Marketing
Social Media sites are a great way to get the word out tens of thousands of people (or more). Websites like StumbleUpon, Mixx, Digg, Propeller, YouTube, and Twitter can provide a great way to gain serious exposure. There are many social media and social networking sites to choose from, and you need to find the ones that fit your specific style. Don’t be afraid, social media communities don’t bite…often. :-)

There is a catch…
you can’t just jump on these sites and expect to generate a lot of traffic. There’s a serious time commitment involved and you really need to provide value to the community in order to gain a following. I’ve seen quite a number of people hop on a social media site and post a link to their own website and then never come back. So, they didn’t really have any friends or contacts on the site, they didn’t provide any value to the community, and simply performed a “drive by submission”. I can guarantee you that their story received no votes and didn’t generate more than 10 visitors. On the flip side, if you do spend the time building a following, if you do participate and add value to the community, then you will reap great rewards (along with meeting lots of interesting people). So, don’t be a drive by submitter on any social media website. I’m telling you, it won’t work. :-) Now, let’s say you love YouTube, Twitter and StumbleUpon and have built up a nice following in each of these communities. You now can utilize these sites and leverage your following to get the word out about your campaign very quickly. And, many of the people using these social media sites have accounts at several other sites. Therefore, you might have one person repost your link on 3 or 4 other social media sites. Believe me when I tell you that you cannot overlook social media. If you do, then you are missing a HUGE opportunity.

5. Leverage Contacts in Your Industry
I’ll keep my last point brief, since it’s pretty simple! Don’t forget to reach out to everyone you know about your new viral campaign. This includes friends, family, people you’ve worked with in the past, bloggers you know, forum owners, the guy you met at SES last year, etc. You get the point. Just craft a professional email that briefly explains your campaign, provides the necessary links, visuals, and messaging. In my experience, this is a great way to get your site in front of people who are rooting for you. They may pass it along to 10 other people, or even better, they may forward it to their entire network of friends. And, if they blog, they may write an entire post about your campaign. This can open your site up to their entire readership. Then, maybe a few people that read their post end up writing about it on their own blogs. So on and so forth. Sounds fun, right?

Are You Ready to Go Viral?
So there you have it. 5 ways to give your viral marketing campaign a jolt. These 5 techniques are free, fast, and relatively easy to set up (other than the social media marketing piece). That can’t be started at the last minute... Re-read the section about social media marketing if you don’t understand what I mean. So, spend the time crafting some killer communications for your launch, leverage some of your strongest assets (that are right under your nose), and then use these 5 techniques to help launch your campaign.

So, have you used any other techniques to give your viral campaigns a jumpstart? If so, I’d love to hear about them.


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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Valentine’s Day Online Shopping, Will Retailers Live Up To Shipping Promises

Valentine's Day Online Shopping and ShippingLet me start by saying that I already purchased gifts for my wife, children, and mother. ;-) But as I viewed various emails coming in yesterday from online retailers, I was shocked to find that only a few were still targeting Valentine’s Day shoppers. Yes, I know that they would only be targeting “last minute shoppers”, but they are still customers, right? And, last minute shoppers will always be there…it’s their M.O. So, I started wondering…which online retailers are targeting Valentine’s Day shoppers heavily? How visible are the promotions, what kind of shipping options are available, and how were they communicating to last minute shoppers? I decided to take a little trip around the web to see what I could find. I visited several of the websites that my wife buys from, and who knows, maybe I’ll be so confident that a gift will get here on time that I’ll make a purchase today! Cue cliffhanger music. ;-)
My wife loves the website and their retail stores. At first glance, there is not a single mention of Valentine’s Day. Really?? I was shocked to see this…given that they are one of the most popular beauty retailers (with both a strong offline and online presence). I saw a promotion for free shipping over $75 so I clicked through. Nothing about Valentine’s Day. Let me add something to my cart and see if they mention Valentine’s Day shipping…Nope. Wow, so you’re telling me that the hottest beauty retailer is not paying attention to Valentine’s Day?? I think they need to rethink this approach…

Banana Republic
OK, so I’m not out of my mind to think this is a relatively important day to target…Banana Republic has a nice area of real estate on the homepage targeting Valentine’s Day shoppers. Thank you Banana Republic! “Ensure Valentine’s Day Delivery by WED, February 13th” (see visual below). Excellent. Big, red, and clear as day. So I click through the advertisement and I’m taken to a section dedicated to Valentine’s Day. They have a left side navigation breaking down their Valentine’s Day gifts by gender, product category, gift cards, etc. They also provide links to their shipping policy, returns policy, gift packaging, and other helpful tools. Banana Republic gets it...and I’m confident they are reaping the benefits of being so thorough. I just might be back to make a purchase before I end my journey across the web…read on.

Click the image below to see the full size graphic:
Banana Republic Homepage Ad for Next Day Shipping

Danger…the homepage had no mention of Valentine’s Day. I clicked through to a few product categories, but still no mention. I went to search the site for any mention of Valentine’s Day and to my complete disbelief, there wasn't an on-site search box on the page...a link to the search box was buried at the bottom of the page. It produced 0 results when I entered Valentine's Day. Then I used a site command in Google, which also showed 0 results. Wow, I guess JCrew believes that their shoppers don’t want to give JCrew products as Valentine’s Day gifts. ;-) Needless to say, I think JCrew can improve their Valentine's Day promotion...

Apple Store
Although not completely apparent on the homepage (it was hidden in the middle of the screen below the hero image), the apple store does provide a Valentine’s Day section. They actually have a gift guide, broken down by product category. They also have a left-side section in the navigation for shipping information (along with a link to their shipping calendar.) It only took me a minute or two to find possible gift ideas and to see if it would arrive on or before the 14th. In addition, the shipping calendar was broken down by product. Very nice. As usual, I like what Apple did here… I might be back before my journey is through.
Upon hitting the homepage of, I clearly found links and promotional advertisements to their Valentine’s Day “gift central” section of the website. In this section, they break down possible gift ideas by several major categories, including color (yes, red, pink, white, etc.), flowers, chocolate, jewelry, fragrances, then by price, relationship, personality, etc. Within the website template, Amazon also provides a text link in the top right corner about 2 day shipping for Valentine’s Day, but I’m not sure that’s enough. It links to their Amazon Prime service, which is a premium service that enables you to earn fast shipping. But what if I just wanted to view the last day that I can place an order so I can have the products delivered by the 14th? I think Amazon did a great job with their gift guide, including getting you to the gift guide, breaking down the guide by category, etc., but as you approach the big day, you really want to know if your order will get to you on time. I know that it’s tough for Amazon to do this, since you might be purchasing from other vendors and shipping can be dictated by those vendors. That said, when you approach a holiday (which is obviously time-sensitive), you really want to know the final day that you can place an order to have gifts delivered on time. So, if it was a week out, I would say that Amazon did a great job…but being only 2 days out, I would be nervous ordering…

The Journey Ends…
That was my little trip around the web to see which websites were readily handling last minute Valentines’ Day orders and providing clear shipping schedules. Nobody wants to be disappointed on the 14th, so it was interesting to see the differences between online retailers. Based on my journey, the winner is Banana Republic. I think they earned it…they did a fantastic job of providing clear information about shipping for Valentine’s Day, they created a dedicated section for Valentine’s Day gifts, and simply made it easy to find the right gift… So although I’ve already purchased some gifts, I added one more this morning from Banana Republic. They are guaranteeing next day delivery, which means I should receive my order on the 13th.

Now, let’s see if they live up to their promise of Next Business Day Shipping. I’ll write a follow up post to let you know how it goes. :)

{UPDATE}: And just when I spoke so highly of Banana Republic, a problem pops up!… I added some items to my cart and didn’t see any option for next day delivery…it was only showing Standard Delivery of 4-7 days. That’s after they guarantee next day delivery for Valentine’s Day! So I called the 800 number and spoke with a very nice customer service representative. She explained that 2 categories of products in their gift guide cannot be shipped next day… But they are in your gift guide right next to your advertisement about next day delivery? "I know…she says…I’m sorry." Ugh. So I’m going back on the website to see if I can find something else that fits (no pun intended). OK, so I found another gift that I think my wife will like. I just placed the order using Next Business Day Delivery. Yes, this was a little hiccup in the process, but we’re back on track. I’ll let you know how this ends up!}


Read Part 2 of this post, which contains the results of my Valentine's Day challenge to Banana Republic!

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Now Gobble Thursday - More Holiday Tips for Web Marketers

Online Marketing Tips for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Gobble ThursdayEveryone knows of Black Friday, the Friday after Thanksgiving, which is the busiest retail shopping day of the year. This is the day that retailers provide incredible sales and deals for customers willing to wake up early and hit the shopping trail! Then there’s Cyber Monday, which arrived after online shopping took hold. It’s the Monday following Thanksgiving, and the day that many consumers purchase online at work (and try and hide it from their bosses). :-) But there’s another important day for online retailers (at least for me). I like to call it Gobble Thursday, or Thanksgiving Day. For a number of years, I’ve been cranking out over 80% of my holiday shopping in the wee hours of Thanksgiving Day. It’s a tradition for me now. So as web marketers, you want to take advantage of online holiday shoppers like me during Thanksgiving week (and for the Monday after). So, I’ve collected some last minute tips to make sure you convert as many of those holiday shoppers. Go ahead, gobble up these tips! ;-)

1. Free Shipping and Other Shipping Discounts
If you don’t provide some type of shipping offer, you'll lose out! People expect free shipping in one form or another during the holidays. So, even if you’re a small company, you better figure something out or you will lose customers to competitors that do. It doesn’t have to be free shipping on everything. You can provide free shipping on orders over a certain amount (like $25 or $50). The specific amount is based on your business, so you can figure that out with your CFO. :-) Also, make sure you communicate the offer in all of your campaigns (email, paid search, shopping engines, etc.) More on this later. Personally, I absolutely lean towards buying from online retailers that provide free shipping for the holidays.

2. Have Your Holiday Email Schedule Mapped Out
Email marketing to your internal list is still the most effective way to get in touch with your current customers (which is why I rank it as the most powerful online marketing channel at your disposal). It’s a powerful driver of sales, especially if you carefully map out your holiday schedule. For example, determine the special offers you will run during the holidays, when those offers take hold, determine your creative for each blast, and start scheduling the blasts. Also, I would plan on sending follow up emails. I can’t tell you how many times a reminder has pushed me to place an order. Let’s face it, people are ridiculously busy during the holidays so sending a reminder is a good idea.

3. Provide Outstanding On-Site Search Functionality and Provide a Holiday Guide
When I crank through my holiday shopping, I love using on-site search (as do many other people). I want the results to be clean, return relevant results, and provide a good amount of information about the product. I really only want to go to product detail pages of items that I want to buy… In addition, providing some type of holiday guide helps customers find great gift ideas fast. For example, show visitors what’s featured for the holidays, provide great gift ideas, break them down by category, etc. If you are short on resources and time, then create a few new pages on your site and organize your products based on how your customers search for items. This can be by style, age, price, size, etc.

4. The Mighty Gift Card
Know matter how you cut it, people love gift cards. In my opinion, I believe there’s only 1 out of 10 people that know how to buy gifts. I mean really good gifts that are well thought out. Most of us have been on the receiving end of some doozies, right?? Anyway, provide gift cards on your site for people who want to buy something quickly or for those that don’t know exactly what to buy. The dollar increments should match your products. So, if you sell $10 items, then have the gift cards in $5 increments up to $50. If you sell $50 items, then have a $10, $25, $50 and $100 gift cards. You get the picture…

5. Coordinate Your Online Marketing Campaigns
Make sure all of your marketing efforts are coordinated. For me, I’d rather not see one offer in email, another in paid search, and yet another when I hit a landing page. For example, if you are running free shipping for the holidays, then make sure you communicate this offer via email, paid search, shopping engine listings, banner ads, etc. And, make sure your campaign landing pages match the advertisements people are clicking through. Imagine someone clicking through a free shipping ad and then hitting a landing page with no mention of the offer (or worse, a different offer altogether!) If you have a blog, make sure you communicate your latest promotions in your blog posts, and again, have those offers match up with the pages you are sending visitors to. It doesn’t take much to throw off potential customers, which means fewer conversions, and less revenue.

In closing, there are many things you can do to enhance your holiday marketing efforts and I’ve provided a few ideas above. Think about it…if you map out your top 10 ideas and then run with your top 5, you’re giving yourself a better opportunity to have a successful holiday season. Just be prepared to adapt as the weeks go by, based on the data you are collecting (hello web analytics).

I can hear those shoppers gobbling up your products already. I can’t wait for Thanksgiving morning. :-)


Related Posts:
Analyzing Your Holiday Email Marketing Campaigns using Google Analytics

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Analyzing Your Holiday Email Marketing Campaigns Using Google Analytics

Analyzing Holiday Email Campaigns with Google AnalyticsAs the holidays approach, chances are you will be launching several email marketing campaigns. Busy holiday marketing schedules heavily rely on email to connect with customers, promote holiday sales and offers, and to drive revenue. With the flurry of emails you’ll be sending out, analyzing your campaigns is critical to improving their effectiveness. Utilizing a robust web analytics package is a great way to scientifically determine what works best for your specific customer segments, and maybe more importantly, what doesn’t work. So, I decided to write a post that covers analyzing your email marketing campaigns by properly tagging your email links (for analysis in Google Analytics). Then you can break down and analyze your email creative at a granular level in your analytics reporting.

First let's define "tagging your online ads":
Tagging is the process of adding querystring variables to links in your online ads so your analytics package can detect and then associate each link with a campaign. Then you can access reporting based on visitor activity. For example, tagging a banner so you your analytics package knows which website the banner was placed on and which version of the banner led to a click through. The reporting will also provide important metrics for your campaigns such as site activity, sales, conversions, bounce rate, etc. Tagging is critical to understanding how your marketing campaigns are performing.

Breaking Down Your Email Marketing Creative
Let’s start with a wireframe for our sample email marketing creative. As you can see below, we have the following areas that we want to track:

1. header with branding
2. product image
3. headline next to product image with product info
4. special offer
5. footer with company links

Breaking down your email creative and tagging links.

Tag, You’re It! Tagging Your Email Creative:
In Google Analytics, you need to tag your campaigns so you can properly analyze each campaign in your reporting. You achieve this by tagging each link that you want to track. The four variables that you will utilize in Google Analytics for this example are:

1. utm_source
2. utm_campaign
3. utm_medium
4. utm_content

This is the source of your marketing campaign, so for our purposes "InternalEmailList" will work just fine. Just remember to keep this consistent for future campaigns to your internal email list so you can easily segment and aggregate your reporting data in Google Analytics. Other examples of Campaign Source are websites you are advertising with, shopping engines, a search engine like Google or Yahoo, PRWeb, etc. It’s basically the source of your campaign traffic.

This is simply the name of your campaign. Note, you should use a descriptive name here, since it will show up in Google Analytics under the Traffic Sources tab in Campaigns.

Medium identifies the marketing channel you are utilizing for your campaign, such as email, banners, search, pr, etc. Obviously for our example, we’ll use email.

I saved this for last, since it’s what we'll be focusing on for tracking your email marketing creative. You should use a different value for utm_content for each section or specific link in your creative. This enables you to view reporting based on the content breakdown in your email creative (which will help you determine the value of each element in your email). More on this later.

So, for our example, the utm_content values would look like this:

Header: utm_content=HeaderBranding
Product Photo: utm_content=ProductPhoto
Headline: utm_content=Headline
Offer: utm_content=Offer
Footer Links: utm_content= FooterLinks

Note, this is a simplified example, and you may choose to get more granular in your own email creative. For example, you may choose to tag each specific link in the footer versus tagging all of the links in your footer as "FooterLinks".

The Full Picture (or should I say "The Full URL")
I just explained how to set the utm_content variable in your link, but I also mentioned 3 other variables that you should set. Here is what your link would look like for the header element in your email creative using all 4 variables:

Each of the links in your email should contain this querystring using all 4 of the Google Analytics tracking variables I listed above. You can also utilize Google's URL Builder to help build your links.

Blast Away!
At this point, you should fully test your creative to ensure everything looks the way it should across email clients, ensure all of the links work properly, ensure you tagged each link correctly, etc. Then blast away and wait for data to come in (and revenue!)

Tracking Your Email Campaign in Google Analytics
OK, so you blasted out your email campaign yesterday and you are eager to see how it’s performing. Log into Google Analytics and click the Traffic Sources tab. Then click Campaigns. You should see all of your campaigns listed here for the time period you selected. For our example, you would see a listing for PreThanksGiving, since this is the name we gave our campaign earlier. Simply click this listing to view reporting specific to this campaign.

At this point you can see the summary for your email campaign. You can see the number of visitors, avg time on site, bounce rate, etc. You can click the Goal Conversion tab to view the number of conversions from your campaign, and you can also click the E-Commerce tab to view revenue, number of transactions, etc. But you shouldn’t stop there… You can drill in further to view which elements are performing well in your email creative.

Click the image to view a larger version:

Viewing email campaign data in Google Analytics

View the Breakdown:
Click the Site Usage tab again in your report. Now, click the Segment dropdown and select Ad Content. You will now see each of the links you tagged in your email creative. Cool, right? Now you can view detailed reporting based on each element in your email. Why is this important? You may find interesting customer behavior that will enable you to drive better performance in future blasts. You might see that 75% of visitors clicked the product photo versus the offer. Based on that piece of data, maybe you expand your imaging in the email to include other views of the product to see if it increases your click through rate and sales. Or, you might find that a headline next to the photo draws more visitors than a headline above the photo. So on and so forth... You get the picture! When you break it down, your customers are unique and you might find that certain elements perform extremely well and others fall flat.

Click the image to view a larger version:

Analyzing email content using Google Analytics.

Back to your reporting… A sample analysis:
Now click the E-Commerce tab and view sales data for each element. You might find the product photo generated 70% of the revenue from the campaign. You might also see 10% of the revenue coming from the footer links. Why? Maybe customers aren’t sure who you are! Most people receive dozens of emails per day from companies they have purchased from. If you are a smaller company that is still building your brand, it might take customers a second or two to remember who you are… If you see trending that shows people clicking through your About Us link, you might want to promote your company and/or brand more in the email creative. i.e. Provide an About Us paragraph in the right sidebar of the email. This is obviously just an example, but you might find some important data from reviewing reporting like this... Back to our analysis, if you click the Goal Conversion tab, you can view conversions from each element in your email. Now you can track sales, newsletter signups, RSS subscriptions, etc. for each element in your creative. You might find certain email campaigns generate a lot of newsletter signups but only a few sales. You would obviously want to dig deeper and find out why that is...but you wouldn't know unless you track it!

In closing…
Using this technique, you can break down your creative and tag each link so you can view detailed reporting for your email campaigns. During and after each campaign, you should check your reporting for trends in customer behavior. Then test out new ideas and drive elements that perform well. Over time, you can refine your campaigns to maximize your email marketing efforts.

So, if I’ve done my job well, your next move is to run down the hall and grab your email marketing coordinator screaming, “Hold That Blast!” so you can tag all of your links! ;-) Then you can enter meetings armed with data versus opinion!


Related Posts:
Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Now Gobble Thursday - More Holiday Tips for Web Marketers

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Effective Email Marketing with

Buying Halloween Costumes from BuyCostumes.comI love Halloween. It’s my favorite holiday of the year. It’s the only time during the year when I can scare people without the fear of getting arrested! :-) In the past, buying costumes was always something I did at one of those fly by night Halloween stores that pops up a month before the 31st and is gone by November 1st. Thanks to the web, buying costumes has gotten much easier. I’ve been a big fan of for some time now. I’ve been buying from them for 3 years and each purchase has been a great buying experience. So, when I received their latest email, which prompted me to buy 2 costumes and some cool accessories, I figured it would be a ghoul, I mean good time to write a post that I’ve been meaning to write for a while.

Email Marketing and has always done a good job at keeping in touch with me. And based on my positive experience with them, along with my love for Halloween, I’m also happy to check out their site to see their latest and greatest costumes and offers. Now, I've explained in a previous post how I believe that email marketing to your internal list is the most powerful online marketing channel. How powerful? Here's a good example. I remember speaking with a friend of mine about a month ago regarding Halloween (he also has 2 kids.) I explained that I needed to get moving and figure out what costume I was going to buy and that I just received a good offer via email. He quickly said, “You mean the email from” That’s powerful. So, I wanted to focus on what I believe are some of the key elements of's effective email marketing.

The Email Creative:
Their email marketing creative always intrigues me enough that I click through to the site. They provide great visuals of their products and always provide excellent offers (like the most recent offer: spend $100 and receive $20 off). I knew I would spend $100, so their offer was a perfect fit. In addition, they always provide their offers in the upper right hand corner in a bold and dark font (easy to see). I also know to always look there to find the details of the offer. The subject lines they use are direct and typically explain the offer.

For example:
“Still time to save - 3 Killer Halloween Offers”.
This was a reminder, so I was already aware of the offers. Their creative always includes html text and images, giving people with connection issues or email clients that block images a way to find out more information. I can’t tell you how many times I have received emails with one block image, which can kill your campaign’s response rate…

They Don’t Bombard Me (Unless it’s Halloween...)
I never feel like they bombard with me emails, but I also don’t feel like they’ve been out of touch for too long. Yes, as we’re approaching Halloween, their email activity has definitely picked up (as you would guess it would), but it’s Halloween and I understand this is their big quarter. They have provided great offers along the way, all with a relatively short lifespan (which is smart). It’s hard to give people a sense of urgency if you give them a month to buy something. Actually, with email, an offer that expires in a month will probably never get used. Your email will drop below the fold in someone’s inbox, never to be seen again. Most email campaigns have a 3 to 5 day lifespan, and I’ve rarely seen a lifespan of more than 2 weeks.

Here’s an example: sent me an email with 3 great offers, which I left in my inbox. Then, like everyone, I was slammed with work. I made a mental note of one of the offers and moved on to my work. So, a few days later, I received a reminder, which immediately drove me to act. That's smart email marketing. I always recommend blasting a follow up to people that haven’t responded to the first email, if possible. The reason is simple…people are ridiculously busy and it’s entirely too easy for your email to fall below the fold in someone’s inbox. Then it’s history. A reminder is a smart way to take "should-have-been conversions" to "actual conversions". (the website) Meets Your Expectations
When you click through to a site like, your hope is that it meets your expectations. The website should have a great selection, be easy to navigate, offer excellent imaging functionality so you can see costumes up close and personal, provide fun accessories you might need to polish off your Halloween costume, and of course offer competitive pricing. definitely does not fall short. I’m a big horror fan, so to click Adult Costumes, Horror, and then drill into costumes for men makes it very easy for me to target what I’m looking for. Then they enable you to drill down even further by clicking a subcategory within Horror, like Horror Movies. The costume listing dynamically changes based on your criteria. With thousands of costumes on the website, this functionality makes finding the one you want much, much easier.

Product Detail Page on BuyCostumes.comProduct Detail Page Imaging Functionality (Pan and Zoom)
Once you find a costume, you can easily zoom into an image (which opens in a new window). You can pan and zoom to get a better look at the costume, which is almost essential if you are serious about your costumes (like I am). Although they do have pan and zoom functionality, I actually think can do better in this category. But, if you break it down, the fact of the matter is that you can get a good look at the costume using their current functionality. More on this later in my post.

Ratings and Reviews
They provide ratings and customer reviews, but I didn’t see many reviews… That’s a double-edged sword with providing reviews. It looks really bad when nobody is reviewing your products! So, I’ll help them out here…

Customers of, review your products, let other customers know what you think, and make their buying experience even better! I just added a review so I’ve done my job. :-)

{Update: launched a campaign to drive more reviews, and they added a nice incentive for customers (a chance to win a BuyCostumes-sponsored $150 Halloween Party). I recently received the email from BuyCostumes asking me to review the costumes that I just purchased. More about this later in the post.}

Search Functionality and Breadcrumb Trails
They have excellent search functionality, enabling you to search specific sections of the site and not just the entire site. They also provide a breadcrumb trail so you can easily find your way back to previous screens.

A Great Closer - Easy Ordering Process and Timely Shipping
I have always found it easy to order from Once you choose "checkout", it’s basically one step to submit your order. Their email correspondence is fast and provides you with all of the information you need (order details, track your order, contact customer service, etc.) Shipping is fast and I’ve never had a problem with the speed at which it arrives or the condition of the packaging. They’ve built up a lot of trust with me, which is extremely hard to gain and very easy to lose.

Possible Improvements for
Don’t get me wrong, as you can see I think they do a great job. That said, there are always ways to improve.

* Segment their email list
I have always purchased horror costumes, yet I always get their general emails (which tells me that they haven’t segmented their list). It would be nice to get an email based on my previous purchases. For example, “Hi Glenn. We’ve noticed that you like our horror costumes. Here are the new horror costumes for 2007. Or, here are the top horror costumes from 2006.” So on and so forth. By the way, there are probably a thousand link-bait ideas for them, being a costume website!

* Provide Better Imaging Functionality
As I stated earlier, they provide good pan and zoom functionality, but I still think there is better technology out there. I think this type of imaging functionality is critical for buying costumes, so it would be a good idea for them to take a look at other solutions.

* Better Ratings and Reviews
This is not easy, since it’s based on customer participation. That said, they could encourage their customers to join the community and improve the site. Actually, it could be a good way to launch a word of mouth marketing campaign. For example, how many customers are as happy with as I am? Probably quite a few. Tapping into passionate customers will only help their business, and WOM has become one of the hottest areas in web marketing. Also, how about a blog?? How fun would that be?

{Update: As I mentioned earlier, BuyCostumes launched a campaign to drive more reviews (very smart.) I received an email asking me to review my costumes for a chance to win a BuyCostumes-sponsored $150 Halloween Party. I explained above that I thought should launch a campaign like this, and coincidentally, they did! And in true BuyCostumes form, they did a great job with the campaign. The email creative was clear and helpful, even providing the actual costumes you purchased with a link to the review form. Once you hit the site, the review form was extremely thorough, which will definitely help future buyers make informed decisions. And my favorite piece of functionality…you can upload photos of yourself (or your friends) in the costume! Fantastic idea… Great User Generated Content (UGC). The results? After browsing the site today, I see many more reviews. The campaign is working and I’m confident that these new customer reviews will help BuyCostumes meet and exceed customer expectations.}

I’ll close my post with two points…
1. If you are a Halloween fan, definitely check out (and sign up for their email alerts). You may never buy a costume from another store or website.

2. If you are a web marketer and want to see a great example of effective email marketing, driving customers to a site that meets (or exceeds) their expectations, then you should also visit and sign up for their email alerts (see link above).

By the way, I’ll be set up outside my house again for those of you trick or treating in my neighborhood…that is, if you dare…{cue evil laughter}. ;-)


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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Top Online Marketing Channels - My Top 6 in June 2007

At least a few times per month I’m asked, “Which internet marketing channels do you believe are the strongest?” It’s almost impossible to answer this question without some context. For example, a company that sells toys is much different than a consulting firm looking for Fortune 500 clients, right? Each business will have its own top online marketing channels, based on their model. That said, below I have provided my top online marketing channels in June 2007. My top 6 are based on data collected from across my clients, as well as for my own business.

In addition, I have provided the personification of each channel, which is basically their famous alter ego. ;-) Please note that since web marketing is extremely dynamic, my top channels may change (even in a few months!)

Without further ado, counting down from 6 to 1:

Colin Ferrell Starring as Social MediaComing in at Number 6: Social Media
Who hasn’t heard of Social Media at this point…heck, there’s even an acronym for it in web marketing (SMO) or Social Media Optimization. Social Media is an umbrella term that includes social news, social bookmarking, social networking, media-driven sites like Youtube, etc. Top social media sites include Digg, Stumbleupon, Reddit, Netscape,, MySpace, YouTube, and dozens of other smaller sites. Using Social Media for internet marketing is hit or miss. Yes, these sites can be huge drivers of traffic and links, but some efforts will simply not take off. I think everyone has seen 1 digg for a story quite a few times… That said, I have seen some impressive results recently from a range of social media sites.

Why Collin Ferrell? You never know which Collin Ferrell you are going to get (or show up), right? You might get the Collin Ferrell who has had a few drinks, smoking a cigarette, and throwing the f-word around. Or, you might get the movie premiere Ferrell who comes sober, has some big names in his entourage that night, and lands a $30MM first weekend. Like I said earlier, Social Media is hit or miss.

George Clooney Starring as BloggingAnd at Number 5: Blogging
In late 2005, a VP of Marketing (yes marketing) asked me rather aggressively in a web marketing meeting, “Tell me…how in the world is a blog going to impact my bottom line?” Uh, I’m sure he would like to take back that question now! :-) I don’t need to spend much time explaining the explosive growth of blogs, their impact on readers (consumers), and how RSS, search engines, blog search engines, other blogs, and social media can all play a factor in helping Jane Nobody from down the street gain rock start status as the premiere mommy blogger! If you are in charge of marketing for your business and you aren’t blogging, start now. I’m not kidding, stop reading this post, walk into your IT department, grab a web developer by his collar, and set up your blog now. It’s cost effective, measurable, viral, and can get you closer to your customers than ever before.

Why Clooney? Top bloggers bring people together, they are industry leaders, can play nice with others, and enjoy sharing their knowledge with the community. Clooney has proven to be a big time movie star, but also gives back to the community and works to help others in this country and in other countries. He’s the closest thing Hollywood has to a future President (other than Arnold, of course!)

Tony Soprano Starring as Paid SearchNumber 4 on My List - Paid Search
A tough, gritty, time-consuming, and dynamic online marketing channel, with a hint of fraud in the mix! I’m a stronger advocate of Natural Search (see below), but based on my experience with paid search, it’s hard to overlook its power. The most popular places to run paid search advertising are Google (AdWords) and Yahoo (Yahoo Search Marketing). You can set up your campaigns fast, you have a lot of control over your message and what people are seeing on your site, and you will view results in hours. That said, you can also see your budget zip away in hours! :-) Effective paid search campaigns take time, skill, experience, and a drive to always improve your efforts. You need to be chest deep in your campaigns all of the time to reap rewards from ppc. From keyword research to building ad creative to designing landing pages to optimizing your campaigns, paid search is not for the faint of heart. Regarding fraud, you can read more about click fraud here, but don’t let the article stop you from trying paid search…just keep it in mind.

Why Tony Soprano? He’s tough, gritty, and results are the name of the game. He’ll give you a wad of hundreds for coming through and then smack you across the face the next day. Welcome to the family. :-)

Michael Moore Starring as Word of Mouth MarketingIn third place, Word of Mouth Marketing (WOM)
The power of wom is undeniably incredible. It’s pure viral marketing. You know, where John tells Mary, who tells her dentist, who tells her husband, who tells his friends at work, who tell their clients, etc. Before you know it, targeted visitors increase, sales increase, links to the site increase, organic rankings increase, blog posts about your product increase, etc. Sounds dynamic, doesn’t it? That’s why, in my opinion, WOM is one of the most powerful ways to enhance your business long term. So why doesn’t every company focus on Word of Mouth? It’s relatively hard to implement, it’s hard to track, and hard to determine a budget, which makes it hard to communicate to decision makers. That said, companies that understand its power (long term power), will reap great benefits from fostering word of mouth marketing. And by the way, I’m an advocate of both organic wom and amplified wom. I think both have their place in your web marketing arsenal. Check out WOMMA for more information about Word of Mouth.

Why Moore? Moore targets an issue and gets people talking. Then the grapevine effect of WOM takes over and everyone has an opinion…which leads to popular movies and revenue. I remember seeing Roger and Me in 1994 and telling my coworkers and friends about it. Think about Moore’s movies and the topics they cover. Then think about how you heard about them.

Anderson Cooper Starring as Natural SearchIn second place, the runner up is: Natural Search
I am a huge advocate of organic search, which are the natural search listings in the search engines (unpaid listings). Rank highly for your competitive keywords and you can drive large amounts of targeted traffic to your website. People trust natural search. It’s unpaid (theoretically anyway), and there are third parties (Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc.) that rank listings based on some criteria of importance (their algorithms). Yes, there’s an entire industry out there (Search Engine Optimization or SEO) that help companies rank highly for terms, but it’s not as easy as applying budget to your organic rankings and having that yield top listings. If you have optimized your site for natural search, then compare revenue from your organic search channel with your other channels. Then, take into account ad spend. Natural Search is ultra-profitable (and can help build your brand, increase targeted traffic, increase revenue, and your bonus). :-)

Why Anderson Cooper? He’s a younger and edgier version of news anchors from the past. He has built enormous credibility (like natural search engine results), but you know there are decision makers above him that help mold the message. You trust him, but not 100%. :-)

Pete Sampras Starring as The In-House Email ListAnd our winner, my top Online Marketing Channel:
The In-House Email List

This is probably the most important marketing asset you can have at your disposal. It’s not trendy, flashy, or sexy, but with it, you have a solid base for any campaign you decide to launch. Used properly, you can count on a certain amount of revenue per month from your in-house list. You also can tap into this list for qualitative data from surveys, focus groups, and other customer feedback mechanisms. In addition, you can segment your list for more power. For example, you might know which customers want to learn more about categories A versus B, they might buy during X months versus Y months, and spend $x per transaction versus $y per transaction. Then you can base your campaigns on this data and you’ll see the true power of your in-house list.

Without a solid in-house email list, you are forced to use other channels to drive campaigns and sales. And, good luck with gaining feedback! “Hello Mr. Transient Paid Search Person, can you tell me what you think of our website?” Come on! For those of you with new businesses or small in-house lists, start to think about ways to increase your list. Launch campaigns to increase your list. Then when you have a solid list, take care of the people on that list. They can make or break your business. Literally.

Why Sampras? Pete Sampras was beyond talented, but he was humble. He dominated the competition, but he rarely made headlines. He won championship after championship, but the reporters ran by him to snap photos of Agassi. Pete was a winning machine, and was completely under-appreciated. But if you needed someone to come through, I wouldn’t want anyone else ready to serve the ball. That’s your in-house email list.


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